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Homelessness , Supportive Housing

How Domestic Violence and Homelessness Go Hand-in-Hand

25 April 2019
Grace Fontanarosa, Partnership for Strong Communities

Grace Fontanarosa
Development Associate
Partnership for Strong Communities

A common misconception about homelessness is that it primarily falls upon those who allow it to happen to them. The reality is far more serious, and the stereotypes surrounding homelessness are damaging to prevention efforts. We know how to end homelessness, and we have a plan to do it. But first, we need to educate people on the intricacies of housing and homelessness issues. So, let’s take a closer look at why domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children.

Despite common perception, domestic violence (DV) is not limited to physical abuse. While the latter often does occur in instances of DV, it is not the only form of abuse -- nor does DV discriminate against age, gender, or status. In fact, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are domestically abused in the United States. In addition, DV does not just happen to individuals in romantic relationships. The sobering truth is that anyone can fall victim to DV, and the signs are not always immediately recognized.

DV can even take the shape of financial abuse, and this is one of the most common reasons why women and children trying to flee can end up homeless. Oftentimes, when a victim tries to leave, they are cut-off from vital financial resources. Sometimes, the partner of the victim freezes their bank and savings accounts, ensuring that the victims and even children cannot have access to necessary housing, transportation, and food. This is a control tactic – making sure the act of leaving becomes impossible. Some abusers even prevent their victims from becoming financially independent and forbid them from getting a job so that they are fully financially dependent on their abuser. That is also the reason why abusers often cut off victims from critical supports like friends and family.

It takes a woman an average of 7 times to fully leave her abuser. If there are no family members or friends left, no income, and no savings, shelters become their only option before the streets. The shelters are usually at-capacity or overcrowded and there might not be enough room for the victim and their children. And then what? Where do they go from there?

Housing supports are paramount in aiding the efforts of those fighting domestic violence and homelessness. This is why services like those provided by the Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain to end domestic violence are so essential. Not only do they provide a 22-bed shelter, they also provide counseling, court advocacy, educate the public on DV, operate a manned 24-hour helpline, and contain a number of supportive and transitional housing units for victims and families to reside in upon application.

To end homelessness, we must focus on diverting families from shelter before they experience homelessness. That’s why affordable housing is so important. Affordable housing allows for victims to pick up the pieces of their life again and start new.

Having stable shelter radically increases one’s chances for better financial and physiological health. Kids with stable homes are more likely to stay in school than those who don’t. Having a stable address makes it exponentially easier to get a job, a loan, healthcare – all things one needs to thrive. Those living in affordable homes worry less about how they’re going to feed their family or how long they will have to put off going to the doctor for an illness.

When we come together to create and implement solutions to solvable problems through collaboration and understanding, the end of homeless and domestic violence is far more achievable than we may realize, even when it seems hopeless. Through these community efforts, we are beginning to see real change. Partnering together to truly impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, families, and friends is a battle worth fighting, and we know how to win.